Climbing volcanoes is no big deal

We’ve hiked 2 active volcanoes in the last 3 days, though our hike around the Masaya Volcano near Granada was only a few kilometers, paling in comparison to our 12 km escapade on the Concepcion Volcano on Ometepe. Our Thursday hike on Concepcion took us to 1000 meters, above the tree line, and would have given us fantastic views if not for the cloudy/foggy weather. We were pleased with the weather though- it would have been unbearably hot and much more difficult to hike if it had been its typical sunny 90+ day. We’d lugged (and did actually drink) 3 liters of water/gatorade each – a hotter day would’ve required more and carrying extra would have been painful. Since this was my first real hike/climb ever, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I strapped on my ankle brace since I knew I’d probably roll it at least once during the day; it was hot but well worth wearing and definitely prevented some of the inevitable swelling. The trail was very well maintained and actually easier than I expected – I have watched way too many movies about doomed hikers and random landslides and expected some mix of Dante’s Peak meets Into the Wild.  This is where my pessimism comes in handy – if you expect the worst, you will consistently be pleasantly surprised by situations that just aren’t nearly as bad as you thought they would be. 🙂 Going up was easier in my opinion despite the extra bodily exertion required (what a gluteal workout) – there’s just less to worry about with your footing. Going down requires less physical strength but more mental concentration – knowing where and how to place your foot I found to be a bit challenging, especially on slippery lava gravel rocks. Tyler also tried his first honeysuckles (what- something I’ve actually done that T hasn’t – who knew?!) and loved them – we’re pretty sure they’d make a great martini. Javier was a great guide and told us all about the fauna, flora, and history of the island. My favorite story is about the rubber trees, which kids still slice into to get enough goo to fix their soccer balls when they puncture a hole. No American kid would ever be so resourceful – they’d just demand a new ball.

We left Ometepe on Friday morning via ferry then cab (because the buses weren’t running do to the holiday) to Granada. We shared the cab ride with a couple from Holland, Priscilla and David. Priscilla is working in Managua for 6 months on a conservation campaign of sorts – convincing Nicaraguans to stop eating turtle eggs. I’m pretty sure only Europeans have jobs like that. Granada is a cosmopolitan colonial city that is absolutely charming and fun. I have been missing city living and am so glad we are taking the time to enjoy ourselves here. We are staying at the La Siesta Granada and would highly recommend it; the owners are lovely people and are very helpful with tips about what to do/see/eat while in town. We splurged on our Friday dinner (early 5 year anniversary celebration) and ate at a restaurant owned and operated by a New Mexican man called Imagine. One of our Spanish school classmates recommended it to us because he too lamented the lack of really quality food in San Juan del Sur. With Beatles memorabilia adorning the walls and John Lennon’s voice accompanying the most delicious meal we’ve had on our trip, we couldn’t help but wish Tante Audrey and Uncle John were with us. I wore a dress and makeup and even dried my hair (yes it’s 1000 degrees here, but I forced myself under the hairdryer for the sake of feeling like a real person), and we had what would have been a pretty normal Friday night for us at home (which is perfect timing since we’re both starting to feel homesick pangs).

Saturday was a long day that started with a phone chat with Jen R. (yay) and attempting to call Dave P. a few times to wish him a Happy 30th Birthday. We decided to try the hop on/hop off bus tour even though it’s pretty new and there aren’t any reviews about it. We’ve had success with these types of tours in the past (Budapest, for example), but I can’t say we’ll want to try one again in the near future. 🙂 We decided we wanted the tour to be in Spanish which proved to be good practice but somewhat hilarious. Between the 2 of us and our guide’s random English translations, we were able to comprehend most of what was said, though I did at one point think he was talking about an orphanage when in fact he was talking about a brick-making factory… oops. 🙂 The tour was less “off” and more “on” and because of the holiday weekend, a lot of buildings weren’t open (even though we asked about that before paying). Even if they had been open though, this city doesn’t lend itself to the hop on/hop off bus tour very well because there aren’t enough museum stops or other similar buildings that would require a decent amount of time to explore. It did include a boat tour of the Isletas which was a nice change of scenery (and slightly cooler in temperature). Granada is on Lake Nicaragua (same lake that Ometepe is on) and various volcanic explosions have created 365 isletas in the lake around Granada. Many of them are privately owned and serve as vacation homes of the wealthy Nicas.

After eating street food for lunch in the Park Central (yummy and cheap and great people watching), we inquired with Tierra Tours (also recommend) about touring the Masaya Volcano at night – fortunately for us, a tour was going the same night and it was a big enough group to warrant a discount for each of us. The Masaya Volcano is in Masaya (nearby town) and is active, consisting of 5 craters. The pungent smell of sulphur greets you the second you get out of the car, and we all immediately started coughing. Fortunately, Tierra Tours is run by smart people, and they provided us with masks (other tourists were not so lucky). Standing so close to an active volcano crater leaves you a little awestruck at mother nature’s power and wrath. Unfortunately there was too much gas-fog so we didn’t get to see the red molten lava, but we did hike up to a different vantage point to watch the BEAUTIFUL sunset over the volcanic rock and gaseous fog. As if that wasn’t awesome enough, we also hiked through a 180 meter long lava tube cave to see bats (creepy!) and interesting mineral/rock formations. In the 1950’s, children of the what-would-become-the-Sandinistas were hidden in the tube and eventually discovered, bombed, and killed by the ruling Samoza regime.

“Concentrated Living” is starting to catch up with me a bit, and I spent today nursing a bit of a bug. Nothing major at all, but even the slightest illness does make me a little more homesick. Tonight would be an excellent night to sleep in my own bed after making a simple meal for dinner and watching some junk tv or basketball. But I have no complaints- I have my husband, a comfy bed in the home of very nice people, and more adventures to look forward to tomorrow to get me through the night. Happy Easter, everyone, and especially to the Masterson family currently gathered at Wildfire enjoying Easter dinner together – we’re there in spirit!

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